The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles following its change on Jan. 1, 2017.
Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images
January 09, 2017 07:00 PM

A suspect has been arrested in the recent change of the iconic Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, PEOPLE confirms.

Zachary Cole Fernandez, 30, voluntarily surrendered to L.A. police on Sunday night “with his attorneys by his side,” a police spokesman tells PEOPLE.

Fernandez was arrested on one count of trespassing, a misdemeanor, the spokesman says. The investigation is ongoing and it is unclear if Fernandez is the only suspect in the sign’s modification, according to police, who previously said they had surveillance footage of the incident.

Fernandez spoke to PEOPLE on Monday, saying he changed the sign to “spread the message of peace and love, a little bit of laughter, too.”

“Whether they’re liberal or conservative, I think everyone saw humor in it,” he says. “The motivation was a really personal [one], but extended to that message.”

He added that his four children played a part, motivating him to “stay youthful and laugh and have fun with life.”

“They didn’t witness [the arrest], so that was a good thing,” he added. “That’s not the example I want to set. At the same time, there’s something to be learned. [The arrest] really helped me change my life and take control.”

Fernandez and his ex-wife, Sarah Fern, previously told Vice that they were responsible. He is an artist known as “Jesus Hands,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

Fern tells PEOPLE she was surprised by the response the couple received since the sign’s letters were changed.

“It’s like when you’re a kid, throwing around numbers, like a million dollars,” she says. “You don’t really grasp how much that is.”

“It was a personal thing for Zach,” she adds. “So, of course, I supported him, like I have since we’ve been together.”

Authorities allege Fernandez slipped past the notice of nearby officers to drape the “O”s on the sign, early on New Year’s Day, and turn them into “E”s — “Hollyweed,” an apparent reference to both California’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana and a similar stunt in the ’70s.

The Hollywood Hills landmark has a history of being altered, including even to Hollyweed.

Fernandez has not appeared in court to enter a plea to his charge, although he did take to Instagram on Monday to post a picture of himself holding a form from LAPD, with the caption, “2017 coming in HOT!!! #LAPD #Jesushands.”

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The L.A. Times reports that Fernandez was released on $1,000 bail. County court officials tell PEOPLE his attorney information is not immediately available.

Fernandez is reportedly scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 15.

“Sometimes in order to create that conversation, you have to be okay with the consequences,” Fernandez told Vice before he was arrested. “I’m very proactive about marijuana.”

Fernandez tells PEOPLE he will continue to make art and is looking forward to debuting new work at galleries and exhibits he has planned.

“This is just more motivation for me,” he says. “It was just a really personal thing that I needed to do. The climate felt right. There was something telling me I had to do this.”

The reaction to Fernandez’s actions has been mostly positive, his rep, Eli Graham, tells PEOPLE, including “tons of weed products from people.”

“He’s been reached out to by celebrities,” Graham says. “He received a pound of weed from Tommy Chong.”

But Fernandez’s was not the only opinion on the sign’s brief changes. “The Hollywood Sign has seen many alteration attempts over the years for people seeking notoriety or commercial gain,” Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu said in a statement, according to the L.A. Times.

“Pranks of this nature deplete the resources of our valuable public safety personnel, in both responding to the prank and in responding to the increased crowds and copycat attempts that these incidents generate.”

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